Joe Cunningham has been in the HVAC world for quite some time, but if you’d have asked him in high school if he’d ever do anything like he does today, he’d have told you no way. Today, he is President of Successtrack Network, Founder of Technical Arts Center, and has created countless multi-million dollar salespeople. Whether you’re an owner looking to train your team to sell more or a technician who wants to raise his or her average ticket, Joe has some simple, highly effective methods you can use to get over that million-dollar mark and beyond.
Joe first got a taste of the trades working for an uncle who was a plumber. He figured out quickly that he didn’t enjoy digging ditches, and moved into carpentry. That would lead him into starting a framing company, and helped build new construction homes. From there, he moved into the home improvement business, which really cemented in Joe’s mind what he wanted to do. He was really good at the technical side of things, and started to get into the sales side, although at this point he wasn’t really sure how to sell or price things.
Sometime thereafter, Joe would find himself working for an established home improvement company, and they taught him how to canvas. Canvassing was one of the most important skills a salesperson could have back in the day before the internet. Joe had a great salesperson teach him, and he quickly moved from canvassing to selling. Over the next several years, Joe would move from Rochester to Florida working in the home improvement industry, and eventually settled in Houston, where he resides today.
In Houston, it wasn’t hard to find work when Joe moved. The city was booming, and Joe worked for himself selling all manner of home improvement projects such as roofing, kitchens, bathrooms, sidings, and more. During a new addition project, Joe had his client tell him her current AC system didn’t work that well. She knew that a big room addition wasn’t going to help matters, and asked Joe if he could put a new AC in for her. Joe isn’t one to ignore an opportunity, and reached out to a friend in the framing business who had a brother in the AC business. A few conversations later, Joe had a price with a decent profit margin, and thought “hey, that’s a good business”. Joe subcontracted the job out, and realized he could sell more than one of these things. The neighborhoods he was working in were older frame houses built in the 50s and 60s without central air conditioning; still using window units. So, Joe went out and started selling air conditioners just like he did home improvement: door to door.
Selling the air conditioners was pretty easy for Joe, as these older neighborhoods were being completely ignored by the HVAC businesses around town. Joe knew these homes had money because they were purchasing things in the home improvement business such as siding, windows, roofs, and carports…but they still had window AC units. Joe would talk to the AC contractors in the area, and they would say “Why would we go in those neighborhoods, they don’t have any damn air conditioning!”.
Selling the ACs was pretty easy because these older neighborhoods were being totally ignored by the HVAC businesses around town. Joe knew these homes had money because they were purchasing things in the home improvement business like siding, windows, roofs, carports, but they still had window AC units. Joe saw an opportunity there. He was looking at things differently, and had the advantage of not having preconceived pricing ideas. When he was selling air conditioners in the 80s, contractors had a preconceived idea that $3,000 was the most anyone would ever pay for a new air conditioner. Joe didn’t know that number, and no one ever told him, and he was selling plenty of air conditioners at twice that price! He was even able to sell add-ons like insulation, and was doing really well for himself and had a great closing rate just by going out every day and knocking on those doors.
Joe was selling enough air conditioners that it grabbed the attention of a lot of manufacturers and distributors. They wanted to sell Joe air conditioners, but he didn’t want to buy any equipment directly. He didn’t have a team of installers or technicians; he just sold the systems. The way he got started wasn’t by forming a new business, he just saw an opportunity working in another industry and looked at things differently.
Joe was a million-dollar salesperson back then, and while today a million dollars is more of a benchmark, it was quite an achievement in the 80s. Prices are higher for virtually everything today, and it’s not uncommon to sell $20,000 or $30,000 systems and up. That means that million-dollar mark is more attainable than ever, no matter where you’re at with sales. It’s all about understanding and following a simple formula.
One of the most common questions Joe gets asked is “How do I sell a million dollars?” Joe sees the answer to this as a simple breakdown of a formula. First, you need to understand that a million dollar salesperson is someone who runs at least 2 leads a day, 6 days a week. Joe isn’t naive, and knows that 2 of those 12 calls are going to fall through for one reason or another. That leaves you with 10 calls a week. Next, a million dollar salesperson has to be capable of closing 50% of the calls they go on. The closing rate today will include a lead mix of Google, Facebook, and all manner of sources, and it will require training, support from the team, and initiative from the salesperson, but it is absolutely a necessity to hit that mark. Next, you have to come up with a real-world average ticket. A million dollar salesperson should be able to hit a $4,000 average ticket. This leaves you with a simple, straightforward formula that looks like this:
$4,000 Average Ticket x 10 Calls/Week with a 50% Closing Rate
That’s $4000 times 10 jobs, times 50 weeks a year, which equals exactly $1,000,000. The important thing is that the salesperson has to be committed to showing up consistently and hitting that formula, at a minimum. From there, they can maximize and learn how to be a better salesperson, and work on bumping up their average ticket to add IAQ, or better systems such as variable-speed, modulating speed, etc.
An important distinction to make between the average salesperson and the million-dollar-plus salesperson is whether they are simply a professional visitor, or a successful salesperson. A professional visitor will “quote and hope”, whereas a true salesperson is identifying needs and solving problems. What does that look like in practice?
Joe points out that builders build a home to sell, not to live in. When you are in a customers’ home, it won’t be hard to notice all kinds of shortcuts that were used during construction…provided you are looking. Also, plenty of neighborhoods were designed with the same floorplan, and using the same people and materials. If home A at the end of the street is roughly the same as house B at the other end of the street, you can probably assume that similar opportunities exist. Maybe it’s a specific bedroom that the AC doesn’t cool down, or an electrical panel that is probably well overdue for an upgrade. Oftentimes, the homeowner won’t even know that these problems can be solved. That’s where the successful salesperson steps in and educates the customer on how their lives can be improved.
Joe loves to ask a simple question: “What is the most uncomfortable room in your house?” They will tell you every time! Once you have that information, you have a great conversation piece and can help them find a solution. Again, people will only invest in a solution to a problem they know they have. As you move from being a professional visitor into a salesperson, you will get better at identifying these problems and bringing them up. It’s all about having that conversation after identifying the need and educating the customer, and you’ll naturally see your average ticket skyrocket.
Through Success Tracknetwork, Joe and his team provide a variety of training for technicians and businesses, both through in-person and online training. It’s about teaching retail sales, and perfecting service calls using techniques for technician-to-customer conversation.
Joe also founded the Technical Arts Center, which is a training facility in Houston. It’s a fast track program for technicians, which is especially useful with the extreme shortage of skilled labor in the trades that doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Joe says all they need is a person that can spell “AC”, and they can teach them sequence of operations and some basic troubleshooting and have them in a truck in 9 days. That’s an incredible turnaround time if you just need some extra help taking on maintenance calls! There is also an advanced air conditioning class, also designed to quickly prepare a technician to get up to speed.